Those particular types of white blood cells, red blood cells or platelets normally grow in the bone marrow found in the large bones. One of these cells, while not fully grown, starts leading a life of its own and dividing rapidly. This causes an excess of immature blood cells (leukemia cells) which means there is no room left for the production of healthy blood cells.
Symptoms of this disease
Due to a shortage of healthy white blood cells, children can suffer from recurring infections and fever. The reduced production of red blood cells results in anemia, which causes the children to look pale and often feel tired and lethargic. Blood noses, rapidly occurring bruises, small purple-red spots and wounds that won't stop bleeding are the result of a shortage of platelets. Because the malignant cells are in the bone marrow, many children with leukemia suffer from bone pain.
How do we make the diagnosis?
Sometimes the diagnosis of leukemia can be made by blood tests, but in most cases, bone marrow and cerebrospinal fluid must also be taken. This happens under a light anesthetic.
Treatment of AML
The treatment of AML is intensive and consists of combinations of drugs that inhibit cell division (chemotherapy). Most children are given 5 courses of chemotherapy and the total duration of treatment is about 6 months. If the treatment has an insufficient effect, in certain high-risk groups and if the disease recurs, chemotherapy is followed by an allogeneic stem cell transplant. That is a transplant with stem cells from the bone marrow, the umbilical cord or the blood of a healthy donor.
Children and teenagers with AML are treated in the Hematology-oncology department of the Princess Maxima Center.